Two $980 round-trip plane tickets, eight months of waiting and two flights later, Cavan and I arrived in Helsinki, Finland. We had no idea where we would sleep that night, or where we’d go the next day. What we did know was that we had each other, our packs, a bit of food, a bit of money and a huge case of wanderlust.
For the next the next thirty one days, I’ll recount our trek across Finland, Estonia and Sweden (plus a little of Norway and Latvija) as if it’s happening in real time. There will be blood, thievery, epic folk metal, a meat-eating vegetarian and other scintillating things you definitely don’t want to miss.
Lands of bog, lake and troll: day 3
(WARNING: I smack Helsinki around a bit in this entry, but I promise that in the coming month, I unwittingly fall in love with it…)
Jet lag woke us at 2:56 am. I whimpered about the heat. Cavan ate a handful of tamari sunflower seeds . We went back to sleep.
The Finnish word for breakfast is aamiainen. Translation: simple, but tasty. Second translation: rye bread, cold meat (for Cavan; I have yet to try meat here…I’m hesitant to begin my month long suspension of vegetarianism) + cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, mustard, the best damn muesli I’ve ever had and plain yogurt.
After eating, we showered. (Thank the gods for hot water)
And then we checked out. Our first stop was a rock church called The Rock Church (and not a church of rock ‘n’ roll, but a church made out of stone), followed by the train station, to activate our rail passes, followed by lunch, which meant nibbling from our food-sacks.
And just what the hel does that entail? What does one pack edible-wise when traversing the lands of bog, lake, etc, etc? I’ll tell you:
*12 oz blood-of-Christian (to feed the mosquitoes and trolls)
*one flask of ent draught (it’s like an all-natural energy drink!)
Uh, yeah. I wish. For reals now…
*dried apples, mango, date-pieces-rolled-in-flour and figs + fresh apples and bananas
*nuts and seeds
*seitan jerky and buffalo jerky
The only thing we had for lunch that wasn’t from our packs was the grape beer. No, this wasn’t wine or cider. It really was grape beer. I tasted just a sip because my tongue couldn’t tolerate anymore of it and Cavan drank the rest–somehow. He liked it, even. And apparently the Finns do, too, which I really don’t understand because grape beer tastes like FERMENTED PEE.
Uh, anyway. After lunch, we realized that–yet again–it was nearing dusk in Helsinki and had no idea where to sleep. We made the hostel-rounds again–making sure to skip the terrifyingly expensive Hostel Academica–and finally, decided to go to the football stadium. On the way there, we spotted what I believe is the natural history museum (see the bear? Its presence proves me right):
But yes, there is a hostel embedded into Helsinki’s football stadium. And it is significantly cheaper than the one we stayed in last night–twenty euros for a single dorm bed (compared that to thirty eight), minus the 2.50 off we got for having student discount cards. Of course, that 2.50 went right back into Finland’s economy (not a bad thing, I suppose) when Cavan and I went to the local market to pick up dinner.
So the hostel receptionist said to go between the fields, between the buildings and into the market with the yellow windows, I thought, half-bemused and–because I was also half-starved–half-irritated (don’t question my math). There was no thru-street . Our path was blocked by a very formidable apartment building that stretched from horizon to horizon. So we went around and to the left. No yellow windows. Okay–to the right. No yellow windows. Fine. We’ll go left again.
Yeah, the yellow windows were there this time.
I’m just really, really tired right now, okay?
The market was small and insignificant and called Alepa, but we still oohed and ahhed at the huge yogurt selection (breakfast is going to be awesome). I ended up with raisins, a sweet bun (I was hoping for something more savory and pretzel-y but those white specks it was covered in? Turns out they were bits of frosting. Not salt. Argh.) and Gefilus.
Oh, Gefilus. I though you were yogurt and instead you were like sticky, yogurty-mucus. Not bad, but not what I expected. But life goes on, as did our shopping trip–concluding in the rather spectacular time we had at the cash register. Actually, let me rephrase–it was Cavan who had all fun at the register.
He placed his orange on the conveyor belt. The cashier looked at the orange, looked at him, then looked at the orange. She cocked her head and looked back up.
Cashier: [insert speedy, plaintive Finnish]
Cavan: ??[looks helpless and confused]
The cashier blinked, then ran off.
I glanced at Cavan–I didn’t think he’d been all that insulting. But the cashier soon returned with a mysterious sticker which she placed upon Cavan’s orange, scanned it and all was well. (I admit, I’m kind of glad Cavan made the mistake before I did and saved me the embarrassment. Not that I wouldn’t have taken the fall for him. Obviously.)
We scurried away from the Alepa after that incident and ate our dinner on windy, sunset-stained rocks. The little song birds were very happy when I spilled my raisins and later, I collapsed against Cavan in much exhaustion as we watched Rambo in the TV lounge. I’d never seen Rambo before and–as I was asleep for most of the time–I have very few impressions of it, other than deadpan and sweaty and whoa! that’s a crazy knife…
But, first impressions of Helsinki?
To be honest, I don’t like it much. Don’t get me wrong; I like cities. I’m not just a feral girl that runs around painting her face black with mountain huckleberries (though that does sound fun, if sticky); I also like wandering Seattle’s industrial district late at night after lots of epic, sweaty metal at Studio 7. But Helsinki is…boring. Just another metropolis. The train station has it’s own personality, of a sort–all vaulted shadows and echoes and chatter, dreaded metalheads and fashionistas wearing fluttery, high-waisted pants. But the rest of the city? I can’t get into it. Sure, it has its quirks–the little old ladies with blue hair, the spontaneously combusting buses . But maybe I just need to find its heart.
(the spontaneously combusting bus)
(I don’t remember who this is, but I think the awesome beast she’s standing on has just ripped off her trousers)
(and a picture–artfully screwed around with–of me, looking thoughtfully into the distance. What was I thinking? Probably nothing. But we’ll pretend it was something along the lines of this: Where will I be tomorrow? Where will I sleep? Will they have more mucus-yogurt there?)
To make grape beer:
Just uproot the whole damn vine
Stuff it in a reindeer stomach
Let it rot awhile
Add carbonated water